Too many non-thinking musical halfwits will try and convince you that bigger is better. How many tracks did the studio have? What was the recording budget? How massive does the Yugoslavian National Orchestra guest slot sound? Basic is bad. Right?
Damn wrong, of course. José González would certainly attest so too, because, despite the help of a mega multinational, simple is king in the world of ‘Veneer’. A guitar, a voice, and a few delicate ideas are all that’s required here, ta; Kelly Jones-esque thoughts on such stripped back matters not required.
Unlike, say, the verbosity of Conor Oberst, or Ryan Adams’ straight out attention-seeking histrionics, González’s plaintive though plain vocals help his densely atmospheric songs become an infinitely more potent canvas to paint on. And it’s a voice revealing similar glimpses of the naked fragility that made you fall in love with Elliott Smith or Cat Power for the first time.
It’s certainly strange to witness an artist so newly vaunted in mainstream circles who actually appears to have been born with a soul en tact, though take Bill Hicks’ oft-quoted artistic roll call theory to the extreme and ‘Heartbeats’ will put paid to that notion. Did we mention ‘Heartbeats’? Ah yes, originally by The Knife, the only non-González composition on ‘Veneer’; the strange contradiction of an advert soundtrack that’s actually a heart-flutteringly beautiful account of what appears to be either an affectionately remembered one-night stand or the final evening of a passionate relationship played out in vivid yet woozy detail. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it stands, if not head and shoulders, then at least a good few inches above its LP counterparts.
That isn’t to say the rest of ‘Veneer’ is redundant, however. ‘Hints’ boasts heavy-weighing deep six-string repetitions that tug longingly at tear-sodden sleeves; ‘Slow Moves’ is deceptively, erm, moving. And ‘Remain’ is one of several occasions where the emotionally frail could be caught unawares by initially innocuous strummings. All of which is certainly enough to suggest González deserves better than any ridiculous and equally unlikely one-hit wonder tag ‘Heartbeats’ might bizarrely catalyse.
8Adam Anonymous's Score